Let’s face it FlamesNation, I have not been the biggest advocate of Cory Sarich over the past few seasons – so when it came time to profile the Flames free agents, I’m probably the last one you expected to see doing the write-up.
Sarich is going to be one of those players whether he is re-signed or not by the Flames that will draw a lot of discussion. Regardless of what side of the fence you sit, undoubtedly most people will have valid comments to back their arguments. In the end, Sarich’s future in Calgary will not be determined by a column with more pros or more cons in it, rather it will hopefully based on a methodical evaluation leading to a logical conclusion.
THE EXPERIENCED WARRIOR
No one is going to dispute that despite everything, one of the roles that Sarich filled valiantly for the team was that of the consummate warrior. Whether he was injured or just not 100% on any given night, he showed up to battle and was never one to shy away from getting dirty by going into the corners. His physical play was relied on after the departure of Robyn Regehr and if the Flames were going to make the opposition shy away from one side of the ice, that would be a burden that would rest mainly on the shoulders of #6.
In order for Sarich’s strengths to be used effectively, he was going to have to be used strategically. He’s not going to be the guy you look for on the powerplay and he won’t be the guy that will anchor the penalty-kill, but he has been the defenseman that will log the steady minutes for the club and given the right matchups, he has proven to be responsible in his own end.
Not too long ago, Arik made a case for Sarich by looking at some of his numbers as evidence. It’s true that amongst the defensemen, Cory saw the third toughest zone starts and he managed second highest Relative Corsi, while facing the fourth easiest completion. These factors alone to some fans will justify the need to re-sign Cory, even if it’s for one year.
Despite the accolades that Sarich has gathered over his career, he is still drifting towards the path that saw Regehr leave Calgary. There are some daunting facts that weigh on his future like a chained anchor and unfortunately if the Flames are serious about turning the corner from the best team to not make the playoffs every year, they are going to have start with players like Cory Sarich.
Can the Flames do without the Cory’s experience? Unfortunately when we are talking about Calgary, experience is just the polite way of saying he’s getting too old. When you equate older, slower players to the development of your team, the only thing the younger guys are going to “experience” is losing. Sarich might have a lot of ties to Feaster from back in his days with Tampa, but those days are long gone now – and so is a significant part of Sarich health.
With chronic injuries on top of already evident issues, it’s hard to argue that he still fills a role on this team. Going back to Arik’s article, there was an accurate counter claim made in the comments by none other than Nation Overloard, Kent Wilson.
”Sarich doesn’t really fill a need on the team. Calgary is already swimming in bottom pairing defenders – TJ Brodie, Anton Babchuk, Derek Smith, Clay Wilson (one-way deal next year).”
Not speaking for Kent by any means, but, for me this is a valid point in that it shows Sarich was functional by opportunity and necessity for the Flames last year. Injuries to Derek Smith and Giordano, not to mention the banishing of Babchuk to the press box left Sarich with a secure position in the line-up. Provided there is a healthier stability in the group and depending what new head coach, Bob Hartley, has in mind for Babchuk, and you can already see Sarich’s ice time diminishing. There is also the issue that Clay Wilson and Brett Carson move to one-way deals next season. Where do they fit in the line-up? Their salaries together add up to Sarich’s perceived One Million dollar price tag, not to mention the significant age differences.
You can also factor in recently signed Brady Lamb. At 24, he is obviously going to be given looks in training camp. With all of these younger players in the mix, does anyone honestly see a spot for Sarich that doesn’t reek of desperation and nostalgia? What experience are we actually looking towards, after five years, twelve playoff games, no goals, two points and eight penalty minutes? And why is that worth a million dollars?
THE LOGICAL CONCLUSION
It’s time to wave goodbye to Cory Sarich. Re-signing him should be a last resort, and by last resort, I mean they find absolutely zero defensemen to sign or trade for and three of their current blueliners are hurt in training camp with extended injuries.
I know I have been hard on him all season long, but this decision comes from the expectations of what Calgary needs to do as far as going in a new direction. I don’t see how that’s possible if they are still clinging to relics of a past they were never a part of; and a past that Sarich is incapable of reproducing. There is just no logic to the move.
The Flames may have an unproven depth on defense but it is also one that has not been given significant chances. Players like TJ Brodie and Derek Smith were given that chance and they made the most of it. There are enough younger options available to Feaster and Hartley that keeping Cory Sarich around would keep an option open to them that is too easy to fall back on.
If Feaster’s intention is to move on from being adrift in a sea of mediocrity and accelerate the process he initially had in mind, then it’s time to leave the elders behind and go looking for land.
It seems the only logical path to take, but that’s just me. What say you FlamesNation?